More than a mailman

Matt DeYoung • Jul 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Do you know who delivers your mail each day?

If you live in the Highland Park area of Grand Haven, the answer is very likely “yes.”

Dave VanderKooi has faithfully delivered the mail for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 40 years, including the past 17 years in the southwest corner of Grand Haven.

On Monday, more than 100 people came out to Khardomah Lodge to celebrate VanderKooi’s retirement.

“I’m shocked,” said VanderKooi, whose last day of delivering the mail was July 6. “I figured maybe 10-12 people would be here.

“It’s bittersweet,” VanderKooi said of his retirement. “It’s great to retire, don’t get me wrong, but when you have people like this on your route, it’s like a family. It’s heartwarming.”

Joy Thom was one of the organizers of Monday’s retirement party.

“He’s amazing,” she said. “He takes time to take time with people. He cares more about people than a schedule. He loves on everybody and everyone loves him back.”

The Buursma family got to know VanderKooi through another avenue — soccer. VanderKooi coached that sport at various levels in Grand Haven for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Hall of Honor in 2013.

“We got to know Dave when he was an assistant coach at Grand Haven High School for the soccer team and my son Ben was playing on that team,” Bruce Buursma said. “Dave has a gift of encouragement. He’s a very insightful, sensitive and spiritual guy who brings that kind of empathy and understanding to everything he does — including, of course, his customers on the route.

“Then we got to know him when we moved into Grand Haven,” Buursma continued. “We’ve been on Grand Avenue for 15 years now, and he’s been faithful as a mailman and also faithful as a friend.”

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